Amherst-Pelham teachers rallying to call attention to paraeducators’ pay

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Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2021 1:11:15 PM

AMHERST — Teachers and other staff who are members of the Amherst Pelham Education Association are holding an informational rally in support of the district’s paraeducators on Saturday morning.

As a response to the recent decision by the Amherst and Amherst-Pelham school committees to seek a mediator for negotiations on a new contract, the standout will be on the Town Common and in the vicinity of the Amherst Farmers Market, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The union is calling for a living wage for paraeducators in the Amherst and Pelham schools. Union leaders say the pay for paraeducators remains the main issue being negotiated, and a mediator should not have been brought in.

“The APEA was not consulted in this action, and in fact strongly disagrees with it,” according to a statement provided by Mangala Jagadeesh, a member of the union’s executive board. “We have not reached impasse, and we see the School Committee action as both premature and a preemptive measure on their part to deny active negotiation with APEA on this topic.”

A 1% cost of living increase was offered to paraeducators by the school committees, amounting to a raise of as little as 16 cents an hour, according to the union.

School committee representatives, though, state that school budgets for fiscal year 2022 include a 1% cost of living increase for all staff, with $329,000 set aside for that, and step increases for staff in their early years of service, with about two-thirds of paraeducators eligible for this extra increase. Those educators could see a 5% overall increase in pay next year.

The union argues that the low pay means many paraeducators do not earn enough to live in the district, and must get state and federal subsidies to make ends meet, or work multiple jobs.

“We believe the School Committee can, and must, do better in order to attract and retain our skilled paraeducators,” the union wrote.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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